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Connecting the Dots from Data to Better Customer Experience

Right Message Wrong Time
I love how Tom Fishburne aka marketoonist always does a great job of showcasing marketing truths. While the focus for marketers to deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time is nothing new, it’s also safe to say that we have a lot of work to do.

External Battery Charger SERP

For example, I was recently in the position of having to look for a new external battery charger. I seem to burn through these things like candy. A search on Google gave me relevant ads right on top. I clicked on a Best Buy ad and checked out the RAZORMAX Portable Power Bank.

raxormax portable power bank

It looked interesting enough and while I noticed reviews from the Best Buy site, I’m the kind of person that likes validation from 3rd party review sites. So I went back to search and looked for reviews.

portable charger review

I arrived on Tom’s Guide and what ad from Best Buy dominated the page reviewing the best portable chargers?

Best Buy 4K TV ad
An ad for Sony 4K TVs.

This seemed like a lost opportunity for Best Buy. I was hunting for something specific and leaving data trails, but the brand I was considering most wasn’t connecting those dots.

This is a scenario that extends across channels of course. As I am prone to do with tech purchases, I went to Facebook to ask my network essentially the same question I searched for on Google. I received a cornucopia of suggestions from my network of tech savvy connections. But what ads did I see?

Facebook ads

Purple mattresses and clothing ads featuring photos of guys that don’t really represent me or what I’m looking for. Of course if they were more like me, that would be scary. But I think you get the point. I was creating data crumbs of intent across channels and the dots were not being connected by the right brands when it came to my customer experience.

While brands are collecting more data than ever before, and have become more sophisticated at implementing effective campaigns on specific channels, there are disconnects in terms of meeting increasing expectations of consumers. Buyers don’t care how hard it is. They care about finding the best information that is relevant, meaningful and specific to them. Right time, right place and message.

The customer journey has evolved from what we’ve traditionally explained as a linear path (was it ever linear?) to something far more sophisticated across devices and channels. Customer expectations have evolved and are focused more on experiences as a differentiator. At the same time, the sheer volume of content being produced creates information overload.

Of course there’s no “one size fits all” customer journey, but the importance of mapping and matching content and media types to stages of the journey are more important than ever. The question is, how are brands understanding the context of these journeys to create relevant experiences?

Internet access is ubiquitous with over 50 billion connected devices expected by 2020. I’m sure some of the people reading this post are using multiple devices right now–a laptop, and phone for example. How are brands meeting the expectations of customers who have always on, everywhere access to information?

Competing with marketers’ good intentions for relevant and meaningful experiences across channels is the fact that on average, consumers in the US are consuming media for 12 hours and 7 minutes per day (eMarketer). That’s a paradox of choice at scale. At the same time, 70% of marketers are not using the insights they’re pulling from data because it’s too complex or difficult (Ensighten).

A lot of that difficulty comes from data fragmentation across tools, tactics and organizational silos. Today’s marketing mix includes more tactics than ever to meet consumers’ insatiable demands for information. Back in 2001 when Susan Misukanis started a Public Relations firm, PR and light content was it. Then we brought in SEO. And blogging. Online Advertising was added. Then Social Media, Content Marketing, Influencer Marketing and so on.

martech landscape 2017
The proliferation of marketing technology tools isn’t helping either. Infographics like the one above from Scott Brinker with over 5,000 martech tools and platforms can put marketers into shock– or “martech shock” as I like to call it. As for data, there are often silos between departments where each is creating unique data or even the same data in different contexts. Suffice it to say, data fragmentation is a problem.

So what is a solution? One of the universal truths that we’ve operated under at TopRank Marketing is about the power of information specific to customers’ that are actively searching for solutions. To be the best answer is a strategic approach to marketing that naturally empathizes with the customer journey to deliver the most relevant experiences at all the touchpoints that matter most for customers. Combined with cognitive solutions, a best answer strategy for marketing is something that can actually scale. A great start is a data-informed approach to content marketing that uses context and insights to create conversations with customers that are relevant, personalized and meaningful across channels.

You simply cannot create a best answer approach to marketing without customer insight. It’s important to ask key questions that empathize with the customer journey. Especially, “What experiences do your customers need on which channels in order to buy?” This is an essential question because when customers are seeking solutions, one of the most important jobs we have as marketers is to ensure that brand content is the best answer where ever customers are looking.

Understanding context and preferences for the customer information journey as it relates to how buyers discover solutions content is the key. Those insights about preferences for content types, topics and devices, and the triggers that motivate action, all combine to inform an effective best answer strategy.

hub spoke best answer

With those insights about content discovery, consumption preferences and triggers for action, marketers can use connected data to architect best answer content programs that are accountable to attracting the right customers, engaging them with meaningful experiences and inspiring them to take action and convert. Making sense of a best answer approach to marketing at scale means reflecting on the possible: What if you could make your marketing easier and more meaningful at the same time?

It’s been reported that customers can hit 17 touch points before they buy. Imagine if every single one those interactions delivered on your brand promise with meaningful personalization? How to be the best answer for customers with as many of those touchpoints as possible is one of the most important challenges for marketers as we move into 2018.

Ultimately, the information is there. The data is there. Customers are telling you what they want. The question is, how to connect those dots of data to understand and optimize customer experiences? Certainly, AI is part of a new era of marketing to answer that question. If you want to learn more about how AI, machine learning and cognitive solutions can help connect the dots of data for better customer experiences, keep reading.

Connecting Dots from Data to Experiences
I recorded a webinar with Michael Trapani, Product Marketing Leader at Watson Marketing on this topic where he dives a bit deeper into how marketers can connect their ecosystems with AI solutions. You can view that webinar here.

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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2017. |
Connecting the Dots from Data to Better Customer Experience | http://www.toprankblog.com

The post Connecting the Dots from Data to Better Customer Experience appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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About Daniel Rodgers

A lot of news that you will not see in the paper. A lot of technology that is coming out that will not see in the paper.

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How A Best Answer Content Strategy Drives B2B Marketing Results

Best Answer Content B2B Marketing

Best Answer Content B2B Marketing

For many B2B marketers content is a numbers game, especially as the number of channels for discovery and engagement grow right along with competition for attention.

We all know how the information overload story ends: buyers disconnect, they start to ignore marketing content and they lose trust in the brands trying so desperately to reach them.

Smart voices like Ann Handley in the B2B marketing industry have called for a focus on quality and even brevity over the hamster wheel of content mediocrity. Many have listened and yet many more B2B marketers are still fighting the uphill battle of creating uninspired blog post after blog post, ebooks, white papers, case studies and who knows how many social messages - and to what end?

Is your marketing about creating content or answers? Think about what your customers really want.

The failure to communicate by B2B marketers has numerous causes ranging from flawed thinking that more is better to content quality issues to what I like to call “invisible content syndrome”, or content without visibility to the buyer.

Answering buyer questions is nothing new. While best answer content is a topic we’ve been evangelizing at TopRank Marketing since our book Optimize was published 7 years ago and since, changes in voice search and what Google shows in search results has put Q and A content marketing into the SEO spotlight.

The new SEO is optimization for answers. Along those lines you can learn about AEO (Answer Engine Optimization) which focuses on voice search.  There’s also Google’s "People Also Ask” feature which now show up for 79% of search results according to Moz. The difference between optimizing content through AEO tactics or for PAA visibility with a best answer strategy is the difference between visibility on a single channel like Google and consistently visibility across channels for a specific topic.

Being the best answer is hard, but that's the price for being in the winner's circle of consistent top visibility. While it’s more difficult to achieve best answer authority on multiple channels than just Google, in this world of information overload, self-directed business customers are searching for useful, credible information they can use to educate, evaluate and make purchasing decisions.

If buyers don't see consistent, credible and engaging "best answer" content across channels from your brand, they'll begin to trust competitors who are.

B2B buyers are using Google but they are also asking their social networks, listening to influencers, seeing some ads, consulting with peers in forums, reading industry editorial, blogs, and a variety of offline information sources.

Successful B2B marketers understand their buyers preferences for information discovery, consumption and engagement. They use customer insight and understanding of intent to create best answer content that is easy to find in search, credible and a great user experience. They also create a cycle of optimization where ongoing performance analysis is used to refine and improve.

So how do B2B marketers create best answer content?

Josh Nite from our team has outlined a few good best answer content examples here. Let's also look at some of the characteristics of best answer web pages aka “power pages”.

Power Page Layout

1. Customer Insight - Whether it’s keyword research, CRM or conversion data from your web analytics, it’s important to step beyond your own intuition about what topics to focus on and rely on data.Consider what is it that your brand should be the best answer for and what customers are looking for that best represents your solution. Metrics that give you an indication of demand like keyword research and intent like analytics and conversion data can point you in the right direction as to what topics to validate.

2. Best Answer Topic(s) - The research and insights work should help you identify the general topic to focus on for best answer content. Then you can leverage answer research tools like BuzzSumo’s Question Analyzer which pulls data from Q/A sites and forums to surface the actual questions being asked about those topics.

3. Hub and Spoke Publishing Model - I first outlined the idea of a hub with distribution channels back in 2010 and the idea has endured. At the center is a comprehensive treatment of your best answer topic. Today we call them “power pages”, more about them below. The spokes have evolved from simply being places to promote your hub content to also include other content representing variations of your main best answer topic.

accounting software hub and spoke content

15% of the daily queries used on Google have never been seen before, so it's important to surface the most important variations on your primary best answer topic. Those variations present a more comprehensive representation of your brand's dominance on the overall topic and also provide many repurposing and content promotion opportunities.

4. Power Page - The hub or Power Page provides specific and deep coverage of a Best Answer Topic in a way that appeals to search engines and buyers alike. Whether a buyer's intent is to understand the topic broadly or to start evaluating what specific solutions can mean for their problem, a Power Page provides an easily findable, deep and engaging explanation. Some common characteristics of the best performing Power Pages include:

  • Leverage keywords/topics in titles to inspire clicks
  • Include page features that increase engagement (interactive, visual)
  • Provide comprehensive content on specific topics: examples, research, models
  • Cover related topics as well

5. Distribution Channels - Power pages are often hosted on a company website or blog. But that’s not the only place buyers will look for your solution topics. It’s important to have an integrated content plan that incorporates owned, earned, paid and shared media.

Hub Spoke Promotion

Whether you partner with industry influencers and industry press to boost credibility or run paid search and social ads for ultra specific targeting, the best answer topic should be consistent across channels where buyers are looking - not just on search engines!

What it takes to be the best answer:

  • Specific, in demand topic
  • More valuable and useful than other sites
  • Credible
  • High quality
  • Engaging
  • Device friendly, accessible
  • Loads fast

By doing the homework of leveraging customer insight and validating with keyword research, you can then identify the actual questions buyers are asking about topics important to your solutions. Answering those questions through a hub and spoke content publishing model ensures a deep focus and coverage of variations on your topic across the channels where customers are seeking answers.

But that's not all. There are many ways to create even better Best Answer content experiences. Having industry experts help answer customer questions segmented by stage of the buying cycle creates and a more credible and targeted experience. In fact, showcasing industry experts in a brand context for best answer content that is more visual or interactive content can really set a B2B brand apart. Easy to find, credible content that’s also a great user experience is exactly what a Best Answer content strategy can do for B2B customers that are actively looking for solutions.

There’s a lot more to this topic and I will be digging in more deeply during an upcoming Webinar with BuzzSumo on January 23rd at 2pm EST.

B2B best answer marketing webinar
How A Best Answer Strategy Drives B2B Marketing Results

This presentation will show you:

  • The modern content marketing integration model
  • How to use SEO question data to inform credible content and influencer selection
  • What "best answer" content looks like with examples from B2B companies

Check out the details here on the BuzzSumo site and I hope to see you there!

The post How A Best Answer Content Strategy Drives B2B Marketing Results appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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